Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth December 13, 2006

Flintoff aims to create history

Andrew Flintoff: 'We've had to get Adelaide out of our system' © Getty Images
Despite that traumatic defeat in the second Test at Adelaide last week, England's captain, Andrew Flintoff, believes his team are capable of making history when the crucial third Test gets underway at the WACA tomorrow.

"This Perth Test is huge," Flintoff told reporters on the eve of the match. "We're very proud of what we've achieved as a team in the last three or four years and we want to carry on creating history as a team. We are very much aware that we would be creating history if we did come back into the series and it's something we desperately want to do."

No English side has ever come back from 2-0 down in an Ashes series, and it has only been done once in the history of the contest - by Don Bradman's Australians in 1936-37. Even so, Flintoff called on his side to harness the same resolve they had shown in recent seasons, which - when the dust has settled - are sure to be remembered as some of the finest performances by any England teams in history.

There was the Ashes triumph in 2005, of course, which needs no further mention here - least of all because the "A-word" has been banned in the Australian dressing-room. But since Flintoff became the heartbeat of England's team in the winter of 2003-04, they have won in the Caribbean for the first time in 36 years, in South Africa for the first time in 40, and until their defeat in Pakistan last winter, had won six series in a row, including all seven Tests of the 2004 summer.

A turnaround on this tour, however, would top the lot. "I don't think we need any more motivation," said Flintoff. "We're in Australia playing an Ashes series and for all of us now it's probably the biggest Test of our careers. Everyone is up for it in the dressing-room, because to come back into this series now would be the ultimate.

"It's a very proud team and we want to give a good account of ourselves," he added. "We came close in Adelaide but in this game we've got to go one further. This Perth Test is huge. Ideally we need a win and, if not, a draw and then the last two [Tests] will look after themselves. This game we have to look at almost in isolation and hit them hard."

"We've had to get Adelaide out of our system," said Flintoff. "We were probably in shock at Adelaide and then two days later it sunk in. A lot of good things came out of the Test but for two hours we lost our way and lost the Test. It just shows you can't do that playing against Australia."

After my surgery I probably naively thought everything would be fine and I'd get no pain ever again in my life. But playing back-to-back Test matches is tough
Flintoff singled out four performers at Adelaide for special praise - Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matthew Hoggard - but it is his own performance as captain, batsman and strike bowler that will be the most pivotal to England's fortunes. To that end, there has been much concern about the state of his injured ankle, but Flintoff insisted that he was fit and ready to bowl flat out.

"My ankle is fine," he said. "I bowled in the nets yesterday, but I haven't bowled today. After my surgery I probably naively thought everything would be fine and I'd get no pain ever again in my life. But playing back-to-back Test matches is tough. I've not done it for a while and I did get some discomfort.

"I had it checked out and I've bowled since - in the last innings of the last Test and in the nets here - so it's not something I'm concerned about. We've tried to limit the overs I bowl in a day for a period of time now, but that's dictated by the situation in the game. I've always been a willing bowler and I'll carry on doing that."

After a few days off to recover from the shock of Adelaide, Flintoff was adamant that his team was ready for their big challenge. "After the loss it was a little bit flat, but the team has been great throughout," he said. "There is still that confidence and the calmness which we've had all along on this trip. It's a side full of character and that's going to have to come out in this Test.

"Apart from the defeats I've enjoyed the trip," he added. "I think all the lads have. When you lose Test matches you will get criticism and that's something I'm prepared to take. I've had it before and I'm sure I'll have it again. I'm happy in what I'm doing and I've given the job everything I've got and I can rest easy in that."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo